As long promised, here are some of my pictures from India.
At a Hindu wedding, there is fire.
Afterwards, we went on a trip to a temple important to Himself's family; no pictures at the temple itself, but my Picasa album (first picture in this post should take you there) has pictures I took along the way.
That's my favorite car -- the Ambassador. The British were making a style of car when they were in India, and they left, and it seems not to have occurred to anyone until about fifteen years ago that there would be any reason to change the design. They come in any color you want, so long as it's white. They're quite comfortable (think British taxicab -- same concept, really), but everyone in Himself's family thinks I'm silly for loving them, except his father, who's tickled and indulges me by requesting them from the chauffeur company.
The billboard (aka "hoarding") behind the car? Political ad. You have to see the hand-painted portraits of everyone in the whole party! My favorite candidate from the region, purely because of his name, is M. K. Stalin -- yes, named after Uncle Joe. (Naming's different there -- the "last" name is your given name, functionally your only name; initials before the name might point to your father's name or place of origin, and you might mention your caste at the end of your name. M. K. Stalin's father is the breathtakingly skilled orator Karunanidhi, hence the "K." Why I'm so hot on Karunanidhi? Tamil is an excellent classical language, but most people speak it in a nasty nasal manner dropping syllables all over the place and using compressed grammar; when he speaks, you can tell how beautiful it really should be.)
Of course, if you haven't got a driver, or even a car, you can fit the whole load on your scooter. Didn't get any pictures of it, but they do that with families too -- family of six on one motorcycle, with only the father in a helmet -- which is still an improvement over the last time I went for any period of time (2003), when helmets were almost unknown in this region.
It's a land of caste and economic distinctions, but most people overlook one or the other. Sometimes both.
Here, a fine house is next to a pretty low-end one (there's more pictures in my album of true huts, made of twigs -- there's very little true homelessness in this region, as you can always drag some sticks and palm fronds together and make a very basic shelter). In the towns where I've lived, that could mean either that the person in the low-end dwelling (who has a shop affixed to his house, and has sold a wall for advertising -- people everywhere are enterprising!) is high-caste but in reduced circumstances, or, more likely that the person in the fancy house has come into money, but is low-caste or "scheduled caste" and will not be made to feel welcome in a nicer part of town. (You can see that a bit in Houston -- I've gone out in some odd areas on Google Street View (I always like to check out where such-and-such a murder happened, mainly), and there'll be no sidewalk or curb, mostly abandoned houses or trailers, and then what would be a million dollar house in the middle of town, but has a tax value of $100,000, due to the $10,000 lots nearby.) Less common in the smaller towns, but more in the bigger cities (like when I was living in Madurai, or especially this time in Madras/Chennai), people, especially the younger generation, won't care about caste (sometimes even overlooking it when it comes to marriage, although that's less frequent), and will hang out with and live near people of the same economic standing, education level, and job type.
In any case, people today are more likely to live like this:
than like this:
But I suppose some things do have to change over time.
One thing I'm glad has changed? Medicine -- levaquin is nasty while you're taking it, but pneumonia, even when young and otherwise healthy, is no fun. Just don't want to do anything for a few weeks; without the medicine, apparently, it would have dragged on for months. But I'm all better now :)